Boasting in Steadfast Love
All over the world, the prince of darkness has duped people into believing that really knowing and understanding God is hopeless. They have been fooled by a deceiver, but with the help of God, we can learn the truth about Him and share it with the world. This requires that God’s love and grace do their work within us. No one is forced to see this truth, for only by love is love awakened.
If you ask religious people today, you’re likely to hear them affirm God’s infinite authority and claim that those who defy this authority will get what they deserve—the eternal torment of hell. Because sin rejects divine authority, they believe it’s necessary to respond to it severely. They argue that the Gospel indicates that we are guilty and must be freed from divine condemnation. Salvation occurs because Jesus was punished in our place, freeing us of guilt and allowing us to have eternal life. This interpretation emphasizes the mental exercise and the steps we must take to get saved.
Now imagine God as altogether different. Consider the Gospel as a story of what God did through Jesus and the cross as necessary for us to believe in His forgiveness. Jesus did not come to torture but to be tortured by those who believed that God was angry. The cross was not a flexing of divine muscle but an act of humility. Through it, God revealed that He is a humble God of self-giving love. He showed Himself to be loving, forgiving, and willing to heal and restore. The power of the Gospel lies in helping us see God as so overwhelmingly good and true that it changes us.
Instead of boasting about God’s infinite authority and might, I want to boast more about His love. When you know and experience someone deeply, you are intimately bound to them. The biblical prophet Jeremiah said that this is what God desires:
Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight,” declares the Lord.Jeremiah 9:23–24
Jeremiah’s goal was to know God. Steadfast love and justice are the ways through which God wants to relate to us. God does not want us to boast about intellectual prowess. We can boast about knowledge and intellect and go through the religious motions but never come to really know God. Might and power can be misleading and tend to corrupt. If we are wealthy, we may think that God favors wealth and deceive ourselves into thinking that we have earned His blessing, but a principle other than might and power is at work—the superior principle of God’s steadfast love. Jeremiah called us to boast about God’s persuasive love and righteousness above wisdom, might, and wealth.
I want to know and understand God by experiencing His steadfast love and justice. God too wants us to know Him. John 17 is the prayer of Jesus and conveys the kind of knowing that transforms our thinking. Jesus makes a request not for power and authority but for love and for us to receive deeper knowledge of what God is like. Jesus came so that we might know what God is really like (John 17:3, 16–19). Like Jesus, the Father wants to fulfill Himself in all our hopes and desires so that we might come to truly love Him and share in His steadfast love. This is what God delights in.
Craig Ashton Jr.
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